Studio EM redesigns Candylicious to evoke memories of a fairground

In the winter of 2013, the retail giant Alabbar Enterprises approached Studio EM to redesign its Candylicious store at The Dubai Mall. For Dubai-born designer Emma Stinson and her design team, this was a dream come true.

“As retail designers we always held the original Candylicious store in high regard, but having the chance to redesign the store from top to bottom was an opportunity that we jumped at. As this was a renovation, we had to return the site to a complete shell and core status. In essence, this meant redesigning and building the store from scratch.

“The most progressive element of the whole project was the client, who trusted our creativity and abilities enough to give us carte blanche to create the store our way,” explains Kristian Stinson, co-founder of Studio EM.


The client had two major requirements – the first being that the store had to flow and the second that it needed to be bigger, but within the same walls.

“By the end of the project we had achieved the latter quite comfortably by adding a mezzanine floor to the store, taking one of the world’s largest candy stores from 10,000sq ft to 12,000sq ft.

“The extra 2,000sq ft is now home to Partylicious, a private party area for candy themed parties within the store. It is rare for any retailer to have a mezzanine floor approved in Dubai. In fact, I cannot even think of another store that has one that isn’t used for storage. It took a long time to have the mezzanine approved and in turn, built, which meant that we had to have a phased opening of the store.”

To fulfil the brief of creating a flow, Emma Stinson, creative director, identified that the store design needed to tell a story and take the customer on a journey. The brainstorming process began with a key target in mind – to develop a concept or a theme that would appeal to both adults and children.

“Our brainstorming took us to the fairground where the nostalgia of eating candy and being with our families came to the fore. This evocative trip down memory lane was the catalyst for our concept design, and immediately we developed key design elements associated with the fairground and used them as the main focal point of the store, allowing us to then build the rest of the design around them.

“Our wall in the office was full of things that first popped into the minds of our design team, such as bright lights, carousels, blinking signage, colours, big-top tents, candy swirls, lolly pops, candy floss, the waltzer, fairground games… Using all of these ideas we began building the design from the bottom up, literally.

“Our senior designer, Nicola Moore, came up with an idea to play with the notion of candy swirls by creating a floor pattern that aided both customer flow and acted as our visual representation of candy lollipops. She created the design and the graphic, which we then had SDS Smartcrete install as a Seamless Epoxy Resin,” says Stinson.

This design touch gave the store design a real 360-degree feel and created a fun and interactive element that the children love to follow around the store.

After this element was created, the store began to take shape quite quickly. Using the carousel as inspiration, the team created a cash counter that was circular and allowed for much more efficient customer flow, but also gave the designers a chance to create a statement piece at the heart of the store.

“Once we added this to the much-loved and adored Candylicious Airplane and Candylicious Tree we had succeeded in satisfying one of our own internal briefs, to create exciting photo opportunities for visitors to the store. We took the idea of photo opportunities one step further by creating a staging area at the back of the store that allows for seasonal or festival-based photo opportunities. A photo booth is another fairground inspired idea that allows the visitors to take some treasured memories away with them once they leave the store.

“At the front of the store we assisted in the addition of a concession, which marks Spun Candy’s first store in the Middle East with the design being conceptualized by Data Nature Associates in London.

“Once we had the main design features inserted in the store we started placing the more subtle design elements such as the Candy Floss Cart, the ‘big top’ merchandising tents, the fairground lighting-inspired store signage and the waltzer/teacup-style seating booths within the Partylicious area, to name but a few,” adds Stinson.

By the end of the project, both the client and Studio EM design team felt that they had delivered a project that fulfilled the original brief, but most importantly that they created a place that connects both adults and children to the world of candy.

“Candylicious being an iconic brand in the market always strives to offer exciting, unique shopping experiences for our customers,” says Mouza Mohamed Alabbar, CEO of Alabbar Enterprises. “It has been five years since Candylicious opened its door and we wanted to take maximum advantage of the scheduled store renovation – not only to give freshness, but also to add more exciting elements within the store. We aim to engage with our customers’ emotions as they walk into our space.

“We know we’ve done our job well when our customers associate walking into Candylicious with words such as ‘nostalgia’. Studio EM has translated our vision and through the redesign of Candylicious assisted us in taking our physical retail store to the next level and transforming it into a destination rather than just another candy store.”

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